Worlds of David Darling

Encyclopedia of Science

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Encyclopedia of Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living

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Latest space and science news

First Earth-sized planet found in the habitable zone of its star


(Apr 22, 2014)
Comparison of the Kepler-186 system and the solar system
In what is an important first in the annals of exoplanet exploration, astronomers have tracked down a planet almost the same size as Earth orbiting its star in the habitable zone – where liquid water can exist on its surface. The planet is called Kepler-186f and is the fifth planet to be found around the red dwarf Kepler-186, located 490 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus.

Although Kepler-186f is a match for the Earth in size, its home star is very different indeed from the Sun. Kepler-186 is cooler and only half as massive and half as big as the Sun. It also has less than one-twentieth the luminosity of the Sun so that, despite Kepler-186f's proximity, orbiting at less than half the distance of the Earth from the Sun, it receives just one-third as much light and heat as the Earth does, placing it near the outer edge of its star's habitable zone.

Read more (NASA/JPL)

Super-sweeper supernova


(Apr 16, 2014) A supernova remnant called G352.7-0.1, lying 24,000 light-years away, is doing a great job of cleaning up its interstellar surroundings. So far the blast from this stellar wreckage has swept up 45 Sun's-worth of material as it expands outward.

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Cosmic gem

Abell 33

(Apr 13, 2014) Astronomers using ESO's Very Large Telescope in Chile have captured this eye-catching image of planetary nebula PN A66 33 usually known as Abell 33. Created when an aging star blew off its outer layers, this beautiful blue bubble is, by chance, aligned with a foreground star, and bears an uncanny resemblance to a diamond engagement ring. This cosmic gem is unusually symmetric, appearing to be almost circular on the sky.

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Dark matter may be about to come into the light

Dark matter distribution

(Apr 10, 2014) The quest to uncover the nature of dark matter is entering a critical phase. A powerful detector, called LUX, located in the bottom of a gold mine in South Dakota, could offer the best chance yet of pinning down the elusive substance that is far more common throughout the universe than ordinary matter. In the coming weeks, LUX will begin a 300-day-long run that could provide the first direct evidence of dark matter particles.

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Where did Mercury come from?

 Kipling crater on Mercury (Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington)

(Apr 7, 2014) Mercury seems out of place. A new study of Its surface concludes that volcanic eruptions have rocked it up to as recently as 1 billion years ago, and this doesn't mesh with theories of its birth. It even raises the prospect that Mercury may have formed further out in the solar system and migrated in.

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More hints of dark matter from the galactic core

False-colour image of the center of the galaxy taken by the Fermi space telescope, all known gamma-ray sources have been removed, revealing excess emissions that may arise from dark matter annihilations (Image: T. Linden, University of Chicago)

(Apr 5, 2014) A brilliant haze of gamma rays coming from the center of the Milky Way Galaxy is increasingly likely to be a sign of dark matter particles annihilating each other in space. Meanwhile, hints of the same signal coming from dwarf galaxies now strengthen the case.

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A tale of two galaxies

NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbour NGC 1317.

(Apr 4, 2014) This new image from the MPG/ESO 2.2-meter telescope at ESO's La Silla Observatory in Chile shows two contrasting galaxies: NGC 1316, and its smaller neighbor NGC 1317. These two are quite close to each other in space, but they have very different histories. The small spiral NGC 1317 has led an uneventful life, but NGC 1316 has engulfed several other galaxies in its violent history and shows the battle scars.

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Black hole spawns vast star clusters

False-color image combining several sets of observations, the visible light is in blues (from the Hubble Space telescope) showing swirls of stars; the observations from the Very Large Array radio telescope are in green and aqua displaying a central emission with two jets, and the newly discovered clusters are in red in the middle.

(Apr 2, 2014) Huge young star clusters resembling a string of pearls around a black hole in the center of a galaxy 120 million light-years away have been discovered by researchers at Swinburne University of Technology. The galaxy, called NGC2110, is in the constellation of Orion.

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Rings around an asteroid

Artist's impression of the rings around Chariklo

(Mar 30, 2014) Observations at many sites in South America, including ESO's La Silla Observatory, have made the surprise discovery that the remote asteroid Chariklo is surrounded by two dense and narrow rings. This is the smallest object by far found to have rings and only the fifth body in the Solar System after the much larger planets Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune to have this feature. The origin of these rings remains a mystery, but they may be the result of a collision that created a disk of debris.

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